The Return of River Song and the Weeping Angels
Dr Who’s latest episode, The Time of Angels, is a magnificent return to form. After the less than impressive Dalek episode last week this episode was an extremely welcome and vast improvement. It was witty, exciting, frightening, and sinister all in good measure, and the combination of Dr River Song and the Weeping Angels (both Moffat creations) worked extremely well, making for a very potent cliffhanger. Despite the fact that having to wait until next week is almost painful, I’m much happier than I was this time last week. Bring on part 2!
I have to admit at this point that I was been skeptical about the return of Alex Kingston as Dr River Song. The last time we saw her (then a professor) was the first time the Doctor had met her, and the last time she ever met him. This was in the Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead 2 parter, and if you haven’t seen those episodes yet (season 4) then you’ve definitely missed out. The issue I had with them bringing River Song back was my fear that her return wouldn’t be as good as her debut, and that her character and that first story-line would, in retrospect, somehow become lessened through repetition. I’m very happy to report that my fears were unnecessary – her return was stunning. I even find myself open to the idea of her being a more regular occasional companion, one who only turns up every so often. As long as they keep up the quality of the stories she appears in then her sporadic appearances could work very well.
The return of the Weeping Angels was also very good. Last time we saw them they were on Earth stalking Sally Sparrow, payed by the now Bafta award-winning Carey Mulligan, in an episode that I think won some awards itself. That episode, Blink, was truely terrifying thanks to a combination of convincing acting, clever use of time travel and the almost total removal of the Doctor himself, meaning that there was no-one there to bail anyone out. The Angels are some of the most sinister and most brilliantly executed Dr Who monsters since the show’s comeback, and their use in The Time of Angels certainly didn’t disappoint.
What I particularly liked about that episode was the way it managed to establish a properly gripping and convincing story-line while simultaneously fleshing out the Who-niverse and making it seem much more 3-dimensional. This episode brought back many things besides River Song and the Weeping Angels, for example did you spot the reference to tera-forming, the process of making a planet habitable that we saw in The Doctor’s Daughter? Or the gravity globe they used to light up the cavern, previously seen in The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit? (It looked like that’s what he shot at the end as well, so there’s probably more significance to the globe than we realise just yet) Using all of these things, without the need to explain them or point them out, makes the world of Dr Who more convincing. It shows that these features aren’t created to aid specific plots and then simply discarded when filming finishes. It also shows a good sense of continuity and well put-together storytelling. I often find that it’s these little bits that impress me about Dr Who’s writing and production, these subtle little nod to things that have gone before like the tera-forms and gravity globes. Other examples include a reference to bananas in both 1940s Britain and 17th century France, a sonic blaster that we may or may not have seen in a previous series, wielded by someone else, and the Doctor opening the TARDIS doors simply by clicking his fingers. If you spotted all of those then you’re as much of a fanboy as me.
I also spotted something in the trailer (if you don’t watch trailers for fear of spoilers then maybe don’t read this paragraph). They experience another crack like the one in Amy’s wall, and they’re talking about it as if it’s important. Despite the obviousness of the cracks as a series plot arc, sorting out the mystery behind them as early on as episode 5 would be a very unexpected twist, especially to those who are diligently searching for such clues and plot arcs. We shall have to wait and see what they do about the cracks next week, but if it turns out that they aren’t the plot arc we’ve been looking for then you may want to check out the link I put in the update to my last Dr Who post, for therein lies an interesting alternative.
And now, as is tradition, here are my favourite bits:
- River Song’s method of signaling the Doctor, the way he nicks the box from the museum and the delivery of “you’d better find something to hold on to” before the airlock opened. Excellent stuff.
- When River is flying the TARDIS and lands it, and the little discussion they have about the noise the TARDIS usually makes. The repartee between Alex Kingston and Matt Smith is very enjoyable to watch here, especially with Amy watching and clearly enjoying every minute of it. Also the “is she your wife” question so early on and how River Song and the Doctor both got round answering it was rather good.
- The fact that the soldiers were actually bishops and cardinals. That may have some greater significance in the next episode. Again we’ll have to wait and see.
- The use of the dead man’s voice was very creepy, just like in the Library with the communicators and “data ghosts”. Again, another nod to something that’s happened before, and a very effective and very disconcerting one.
- Generally the whole episode had such a professional feel to it, the way it was shot, the sets, everything really. The production values really were excellent.
- “Spoilers”. Again. Wasn’t that brilliant‽
- That ruddy cliff hanger. Best one I’ve seen in ages, especially since it cuts out just after he’s thought of something that could save them, rather than just before as we’ve become accustomed to.